The summer of 1986, my parents came over to visit us from Denmark. At that time my father was 66 years old. I noticed my father was very forgetful. I had just learned a little bit about Alzheimer’s disease from the television. I told my mother, “Dad has Alzheimer’s”. Her immediate reaction was “NO”, what is it.
After some time my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. My father used to walk or take the bus to synagogue every single evening for the evening prayers. One day he didn’t come home. My mother called everyone from the synagogue and no one had seen him. Finally she called the police and at 1 a.m. they found him in front of a department store. This happened a couple of times.
The doctor put my father on trial medication, I don't know if it worked or not, but my father did get worse.
My mother was all alone with my father since neither of my siblings nor I lived in Denmark. My father’s nurse was my mother, and he became my mother’s child, and didn’t feel anyone could take care of my father good enough. At that time I used to travel back and forth to Denmark 6 times a year.
In 1999, with the help of the doctor, 13 years after my father was diagnosed, my mother finally agreed to put my father in the nursing home, but she still went to the nursing home twice a day. My mother used to have big arguments with everyone there, because she didn’t think they took good enough care of my father.
Every time I came to Denmark I could see he was getting worse. In order to keep a connection with him we would sing the same songs to him while taking him for a walk. This was the only way we were able to connect with him. Till this day I remember the last time he said my name. We were walking and singing, and he suddenly stopped looked at me and said “Margot”. That was the last time I heard him say anything.
As he got worse, I wanted him so badly to understand that I was his daughter and he was my father, I kept telling him that, but he would look right through me. Didn’t even understand what I said. I missed my father so badly even though he was sitting right in front of me.
I used to tell people, as long as my father is here on this earth I’m happy, he may not know who I am, but I do know who he is.
We saw this horrible disease all the way to the end. My father did not have any other illnesses, at the end he was nothing but skin and bones.
My father passed away in 2004 at the age of 84. Soon after he passed away I noticed that my mother acted different. We would go shopping, she’d tell me she wanted a dress, when we got to the store she was looking for a skirt, when I told her that she wanted a dress, she yelled at me and said NO. When leaving the store, I told her she didn’t have to talk to me like that, but she had no idea what I was talking about. After leaving to come back to the US, I called her doctor in Denmark and told him what had happened. He did not listen to me, and that my mother is always so cheery. I was so afraid my mother was going down the same road as my father.
Within a year of my father’s death my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. When we were told, I was in such a shock with disbelief. To her I had to pretend it was nothing. My mother lived in her own apartment all by herself. The government had a nurse come to her every two weeks to prepare her pills, but my mother didn’t want anyone to help her. She still thought she could do everything by herself. At that point I started going to Denmark every 6 weeks. Even I, was not allowed to help her with her medicine. I used to cook for her and put food in the freezer so that she’d have food for some time, otherwise she’d just eat bread with cheese on.
You have to know, my mother was the kind of person who did everything for everybody, but she never needed any help, she could do everything all by herself.
In 2008, my mother went to the hospital for two weeks. After that my brother and brother in law took my mother to Israel, where they live, for a “visit”, to live with my sister. They kind of kidnapped her. And thank G-d they did. I believe that was the last call for her to live by herself. I do believe, if my mother hadn’t been “kidnapped” to Israel, but rather stayed by herself in her apartment or have been in a nursing home, she would have been gone long time ago.
My sister has 16 grandchildren, and every time they come over they have to go and give their great grandmother a kiss and say hello before they do anything else. Those children have helped my mother stay alive, they all put such a big smile on her face.
I go to Israel everything month for 10-14 days to help my sister with my mother. My mother is now 95 years old, and needs 24/7 help. She is able to communicate to a certain degree, and she knows who we are. I feel very fortunate to still have her around, and extremely appreciative to my husband for all the support he gives me, since half my time I’m in Israel.
One of the ten commandments handed down to us is to honor our father and mother. I feel honored to be a caregiver to my mother and am so appreciative of the opportunity to do so. We can only hope that The lessons our children and grandchildren have learned about love and honoring our parents will be ingrained in them when it is our time to receive care.
Four months ago my mother past away. She was the best.
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